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Introduction To K-Pop:The Significance Of Lee Soo Man And The Rise Of SM Entertainment

By Adrienne Stanley | February 16, 2014 02:54 AM EST


2014 has started off with the balance of power in the realm of K-Pop shifting back into its original place. JYP Entertainment successfully launched their newest male group, GOT7, prompting YG Entertainment to accelerate the debut of WINNER. However, the most interesting story to develop in February has been the possibility that SM Entertainment's Girls Generation (SNSD) could be facing off against YG Entertainment's 2NE1 in comeback activities. While the music of each girl group is distinctly different, the headlines surrounding the comeback announcements were reminiscent of earlier rivalries between SM, YG, and JYP Entertainment. However, many K-Pop fans and critics of the genre tend to ignore the fact that without Lee Soo Man and SM Entertainment, K-Pop in its present form may not exist.

The similarities which lie between Lee Soo Man (SM Entertainment), Yang Hyun Suk (YG Entertainment), and J.Y. Park (JYP Entertainment) begin with the fact that each was an entertainer in their own right. While J.Y. Park (Park Jin Young) is the only active performer of the three, Lee Soo Man and Yang Hyun Suk have continued to have a hand in production, formation of new talent, and the detailed concepts surrounding activities ranging from comebacks to large scale concerts. As the founders of each entertainment company recognized a specific aspect of music that was lacking in Korea, Lee Soo Man was instrumental in delivering glitzy, MTV-style pop music to the masses. In his quest to develop the best musical product, Lee Soo Man segued from radio and television host to become one of the most innovative forces in Asian entertainment.

In the mid-1970s, Lee Soo Man successfully performed as a solo artist and television host, in South Korea. However, he remained driven in his pursuit for success. In 1980, Lee Soo Man founded the first heavy metal band in Korea, but abandoned the project due to censorship laws. In 1981, he chose to pursue a Masters of Arts in Computer Science at California State University. His experience in the the United States, during the rise of American pop idols such as Madonna and Michael Jackson, helped to shape the way in which Lee Soo Man would later approach the Korean music industry. Lee Soo Man was present for an unprecedented period in which larger-than-life stars emerged from what would become antiquated terrestrial radio to dominate television airwaves on MTV.

While SM Entertainment was co-founded by Lee Soo Man in 1989, the fruits of his labor did not fully manifest themselves until 1996. By 1996, Korea was ripe to receive pop music in the form envisioned by Lee Soo Man. What is now known as CJ E&M was slowly developing with the cinematic branch CGV (CJ Golden Village) helping to serve as a catalyst for the evolution of modern media in Korea. SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System), home to Inkigayo and dramas such as The Heirs was in its infancy. With the formation of H.O.T, Lee Soo Man would utilize emerging Korean media, to launch what would become recognized as one of the first true Korean idol groups. In 1997, SM Entertainment launched S.E.S to serve as the female counterparts of H.O.T. Following, S.E.S came the iconic group Shinhwa, which remains as the longest continuing K-Pop group.
Formed in 1998, Shinhwa celebrated their fifteen year anniversary in 2013, although they are no longer signed to SM Entertainment. In 2000, SM Entertainment's female solo artist BoA made her debut at the age of thirteen with the album ID;Peace B. When H.O.T disbanded in 2001, Kangta who served as the main voice of the group, remained with SM as a solo artist.

By 2003, SM Entertainment had entered the era that delivered the fame of TVXQ (DBSK). DBSK literally translates to 'Rising Gods of the East', which the group embodied by becoming some of the first true Hallyu stars. In their debut through 2010, DBSK consisted of Jung Yunho, Shim Changmin, Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun, and Kim Junsu.


In 2005, SM followed the success of DBSK with Super Junior, followed by Girls Generation in 2007. As SM Entertainment entered a new era, the focus from mega-groups like Super Junior and Girls Generation shifted. SHINee was formed in 2008 followed by f(x) in 2009. However, SM and Lee Soo Man returned to the concept of the mega-group in 2011 with EXO, with a pan-Asian and worldwide audience as the targets of the most recent Hallyu Wave.

In 2013, Lee Soo Man was the second richest celebrity stockholder in Korea. While he is no longer considered the CEO of SM Entertainment, his influence as one of its founders remains omnipresent. JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment are recognized for their adaptation of American hip-hop, as well as R&B, while SM Entertainment has mastered pop music in its purest form. However, as EXO continues to deliver new releases, the distinguishing quality of other agencies in Korean music continue to diminish. Lee Soo Man has seen many successes throughout his career. In 2014, it is obvious that Girls Generation, Super Junior, SHINee, f(x), and EXO will continue to deliver what has become K-Pop gold.

Tagged :  SM Entertaiment, Lee Soo Man, Girls Generation, EXO, EXO-M, EXO-K, Super Junior, TVXQ, H.O.T.


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